Book Review: Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.

As most of us are now sitting at home and finding ourselves with more free time, books are usually a good way to occupy our minds for a few hours. Maybe even calm us down when the atmosphere gets too stuffy or the thoughts get too troubling. I managed to binge-read the last hundred or so pages for this book because it was hard to put down and honestly there was not much else to do so I hope this review gives good enough insight for you to add it to your reading list!

Book Information:

  • Author: Dan Brown
  • Year Published: 2000
  • Page Count: 615
  • Genre: Mystery / Thriller
  • Warnings: Blood & Violence, Disturbing Themes, Attempted Sexual Assault (brief).
  • Pacing: Drawling | Slow | Suspenseful Build | Fluctuating | Steady | Fast | Vague
  • Type: Fantasy | Mix | Realism

Plotting:

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Browns Robert Langdon series is mostly thriller and mystery which uncovers interesting secrets behind religion, science and just about anything to do with symbols (which makes sense because Langdon is a professor of symbology). Angels & Demons is no different.

The story follows the death of Leonardo Vetra, a scientist at a facility called CERN and his body was found with an ambigram which Langdon later confirms authentic to the Illuminati.

Plotting is seemingly simple from afar but by the end of the book, Brown manages to enlighten the reader to the many deeply laced secrets and scandals right under everyones noses. From an antimatter time bomb breathing down the characters necks to the intense ongoing battle between religion and science, the plotting of this book was an absolute delight to dive into.

Characterization:

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Robert Langdon is the main protagonist in the book. A few of his notable qualities are his trusty Mickey Mouse watch, his history in athletic swimming, being a symbology nerd and having a mild-severe case of claustrophobia. While not everyones most relatable character, it is interesting seeing this poor professor get pulled into the most dangerous, mind-blowing situations. He has a lot of knowledge on just about everything that is symbology. He also attempts to make corny jokes occasionally which is a little cringe-worthy but no interesting character is ever perfect.

The second protagonist is Vittoria Vetra, a scientist at CERN and Leonard Vetras adoptive daughter. Vetra definitely has more of an edge to her compared to Langdon’s softer demeanor as she was able to take the lead with a quicker mind. Her hyper sense of assessing the situation and finding solutions to problems in the pressured environment (while grieving for her father) was strength at its finest.

Relationship Building:

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Relationships come in different forms even in this book but the most prominent was the connection between Robert and Vittoria. Browns attempt at romance was a nice relief from all the timed tension between life and death. However, it lacked emotion and flavor. Most of the relationship building involved Brown simply telling the reader what the relationship is and bringing it to a slightly awkward development. It was almost as if he just a told a joke no one understood so he proceeded to explain it.

Romance is a tricky topic to write (in a way that can be taken seriously)  even for expert writers like Dan Brown. Personally I would have read the entire book with the same amount of enjoyment if he just got rid of the whole romance bit. Though in his defense, the book was timed for a day and no one can develop any kind of deep love in that short time-frame. Also adding to the fact that they were both going through traumatic events in the story which would make their connection a lot deeper.

A lot of the reason why the relationship building was not quite as memorable is due to the restricted time-frame. The entire book goes on for one day to find a killer  which would mean making friends could not be their top priority.

Setting:

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I mean it’s Rome. Of course there was no doubt the setting would be beautiful and it would have the ability to capture an audience even in imagination. My favourite part about this book was the amount of knowledge and attention paid to work of an artist I never looked into: Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The entire plot surrounded Langdon and Vittoria following the path of Illumination cleverly shown in Berninis artworks such as the Ecstasy of St. Teresa (if you haven’t heard of this, yes it’s exactly as it sounds). I managed to learn so much about one artist in this stories and it is the main reason why I enjoy Dan Browns books. No matter what the plot is, I always learn something about the world or history that I probably would not search up myself.

Social Readings

Keeping in mind, this book was released in the 2000’s. The world has definitely changed in its social and political climate in the last 20 years so I will try to write out my thoughts accordingly.

Religion:

Brown can be controversial depending on how religious or science-oriented the reader is. There are facts in this world that are tough to hear and may cause some discomfort amongst those who are extremely faithful. This book heavily talks about secrets within the Vatican and the battle against Illuminati so tread carefully and always make sure to keep an open mind if you decide to read this.

Race:

The decision to place a Middle Eastern man who is violently misogynistic and blood-thirsty might not rub people the right way. Mainly because it really ties into negative racial stereotypes. Obviously a character is just that, a character. I’m quite sure there’s no deep conspiracy that Brown was trying to unveil. However this form of representation both in fiction and the media has negatively affected society in more ways than one. So I think it’s important to note this aspect of the book since the review is being made in 2020.

There is a point in the book where Brown heavily begins to describe Vittoria’s body referring it with terms like “Mediterranean flesh” and how she expressed “raw sensuality”. While there is nothing wrong with a woman having a sensual atmosphere, the way this description was structured with racial connotations could easily be on the borderline of exoticism. A problematic mindset of having interests (mostly sexual) towards someone simply because of their foreign origins. Brown, however, does not drawl on the concept far too much and it was a only a brief moment of discomfort where he began over-describing a character.

Feminism:

The Vatican has some strict rules against women so there will be a few remarks on the note but nothing too irritating. Circling back to the main antagonist, the ‘Hassassin’ is extremely misogynistic and just has an overall unsettling behavior towards women.

A word of warning for those who are triggered by the topic, the ‘Hassassin’ also attempts to sexually assault Vittoria while being aroused at the idea of slitting her throat during forced oral sex. The scenes are very brief and nothing really jarring happens other than the ‘Hassassin’ trying to cut her clothes off before it is interrupted. But it is still worth noting just in case.

Concluding Thoughts:

If you can handle a whole lot of violence and dark religious/sacrilegious facts with that lovely sprinkle of Italian artwork then Angels & Demons is the book for you. I enjoyed reading it and even huddled in my room for the last 200 pages because I just wanted to know what happened. The mystery of it all was just so thrilling to read as it unveiled. While obviously there were some parts I was not too happy about, I would definitely recommend this to anyone if they want a tension-filling and enlightening book!

Please stay safe and healthy!

– Ashley.

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